CONTENT WARNING: ASSAULT
Whew! Well, another Oscars ceremony is in the books, and what a doozy it was. I can’t believe I missed it!
Okay, let me explain. About a year ago, my husband and I ditched cable and went to streaming exclusively. We don’t have a live TV option because it’s just not cost-effective for us (the same way that cable wasn’t cost-effective for us), so for the first time since I honestly don’t remember when, I was unable to watch the Oscars. I really wasn’t that bummed about it until I woke up yesterday morning and found out what I missed.
Let me get this out of the way right up front: Chris Rock’s “joke” about Jada Pinkett Smith – who suffers from alopecia – was tasteless and demeaning. I want to give Rock the benefit of the doubt and assume he wasn’t aware of her alopecia, but she’s been pretty open about it (the Smiths, like it or not, are pretty open about a lot of topics) and frankly, it wouldn’t have made the joke funnier anyway. I’d love to see a moratorium on mocking people for their appearances. I’d also love to see a moratorium on toxic masculinity. Will Smith’s assault on Chris Rock – and make no mistake about it, it was an assault – was not about “defending her honor”, it was about Smith’s inability to control his emotions.
The remainder of the ceremony became the “Will Smith Show”. The presentation of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, which went to Questlove and the team from Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), was completely overshadowed by the altercation. Minutes later, Smith used his Best Actor acceptance speech to tearfully apologize to the Academy and his fellow nominees but not to Rock himself [Smith released a public apology to Rock yesterday, and the Academy has announced it will conduct a formal review of the incident].
The slap wasn’t the evening’s only controversy. In a move intended to reduce the length of the broadcast, the Academy announced that the presentation and acceptance of the awards in eight categories – Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Short Subject, Best Editing, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Sound – would be pre-taped an hour before the broadcast began. Criticism was swift and sharp. Eventual Best Actress winner Jessica Chastain let it be known that she planned to skip the red carpet in favor of seeing the presentation of Best Makeup and Hairstyling (the team from The Eyes of Tammy Faye won, and no doubt they appreciated the support from their leading lady). Ultimately, a bunch of super talented artists lost out on their big Oscar moment (and at three hours and forty-two minutes, the broadcast was the longest in four years anyway).
In another head-scratcher, Rachel Zegler (Maria in Best Picture nominee West Side Story) took to Instagram a week ago with the news that she hadn’t been invited to the ceremony to cheer on her fellow cast and crewmates. The Academy was quick to ask Zegler to attend the ceremony as a presenter. Zegler cheekily referenced the incident in her pre-award banter (co-presenter Jacob Elordi: “Growing up in Australia, I never thought that I would stand on this stage” Zegler: “And I never thought that I would be here six days ago”).
In an evening beset by scandal, there were high points as well. For the first time since 2018, the Oscars had an official host and not one or two but three amazing women (Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall) were selected for the job. Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story). CODA‘s Troy Kotsur became just the second deaf actor in history to win an Oscar. Jane Campion became the third woman – and the second in a row! – to win a Best Director Oscar. We saw a Pulp Fiction reunion (Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta handed out the award for Best Actor) and tributes to the fiftieth anniversary of The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were on-hand for that) and the sixtieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise. And in the evening’s most poignant moment, Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli presented the Best Picture Award; at one point, Minnelli’s confusion prompted Gaga to say “I got you”, to which Minnelli replied, “I know, thank you”. The exchange was picked up by the mics and hearts around the world melted.
The night’s biggest winners were Dune, which took home six awards – Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects – and CODA, which won all three awards for which it was nominated (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay). Kenneth Branagh finally took home an Oscar on his eighth try, winning Best Original Screenplay for Belfast (fun fact: Branagh is the only person to be nominated for Oscars in seven different categories!). And twenty-year-old Billie Eilish is now halfway to an EGOT after she and her brother Finneas won Best Original Song for “No Time to Die”.
And finally, the fashion: